History of the Library

A dramatic start

 

    The saga of the Kellogg-Hubbard Library began in 1889, when Martin M. Kellogg, a New York City real estate magnate born in Barre, died of a heart attack, followed three months later by his widow, the former Fanny M. Hubbard, a Montpelier native. The couple had agreed their $300,000 estate should be given to the city of Montpelier to construct ornate entrance gates for the Green Mount Cemetery and to build a public library.

    But Fanny's nephew, John E. Hubbard, contested her will. After signatories to Fanny's will testified at a probate court hearing that they hadn't realized they were signing a will, the judge ruled in Hubbard's favor and declared the will void. Town fathers filed a counter suit, and after three years of dispute — with local residents taking sides — John Hubbard agreed to build a library.

    Ground-breaking took place in 1894 and by the summer of 1895, the $60,000 library was open for business. It was dedicated on January 2, 1896.

    The library was built in the Classical Revival style from rough, light-colored granite from Dummerston. The two-story entrance with four columns, rounded bays, and ample windows with unusual portholes under the eaves, give the building a distinctive look.

    Local librarian Mary E. Macomber resigned as head of the existing Montpelier Public Library Association and took over at the Kellogg-Hubbard. In 1897 the MPLA merged its books with the Kellogg-Hubbard collection.

    John Hubbard died in 1899, and in 1903 his $125,000 bequest went to the library. With this funding, the library was open every day except Sundays and holidays for a generous 48 hours per week.

Flooding

Floods have figured sadly in the Kellogg-Hubbard's history. The collection was practically destroyed in the great flood of November 1927. (Look for the brass disc near the adult circulation desk that marks the alarmingly high water line!)

 

Sixty-five years later, in March 1992, Montpelier was hit with another flood caused by an ice jam on the Winooski River. The Children's Room, which was located in the basement, was flooded to the ceiling! The staff and helpful residents managed to save 20,000 books.

Opportunity to expand

    After the 1992 flood, the Children's Room operated under severely adverse conditions. Ongoing water problems damaged the book collection and created an unhealthy environment for both children and staff.

    At the same time, the library faced other pressing problems. Book shelves were badly overcrowded, public reading areas needed to be expanded, and serious building code deficiencies demanded attention. By 1998, the library trustees had determined that a new addition must be built to accommodate the Children's Room, and major renovations and restorations were required in the existing building.

    The library learned that it would receive a large bequest from the estate of Frances Holmes of Montpelier. Miss Holmes had long wished to be a librarian, but the circumstances of her life prevented it. It could be said that this important bequest was her way of achieving her dream.

    From the start, the trustees determined that this "project of a hundred years" would be carried out with no false economies, but also with no unnecessary or unwise gilding. The original building, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, had to be renovated in a way that retained all the warmth and elegance of its century-long tradition.

    With the assistance of its supporting towns, the City of Montpelier, federal grants secured by Senator Patrick Leahy, and the generosity of many private donors, local businesses and corporations, the project was launched.

    Construction began in May 2000. The fundraising committees, library trustees, architects, builders, library staff, and volunteers worked tirelessly on what was truly a labor of love.

In 2001, construction was completed. The inside of the library was returned to its original glory. The central skylight was re-opened, and the original woodwork and flooring were restored. The new Children's Library, on the second floor of the new Patrick Leahy Wing, was filled with light.

    Since then, the library has experienced a true renaissance. Over 750 people per day come through the doors to borrow books, to read in a beautiful setting, to access the Internet, to attend educational programs, or to introduce their children to the pleasures of a public library.

Before the Kellogg-Hubbard

 

In the 100 years before the Kellogg-Hubbard opened, Montpelier had several smaller libraries:

  • In 1794 there was a circulating library of 200 volumes on history, biography, and travel, but no fiction.

  • From 1814-1850, the Village Library Society offered a circulating collection.

  • Circa 1860-1880, the Agricultural Library circulated books and two reading rooms provided newspapers and magazines free to the public.

  • In 1885, the Montpelier Public Library Association was established, following fundraising by the Women's Christian Temperance Union. At first accessible only to stockholders, the 5,000-volume collection was free to the public by 1896. The YMCA rented space for the library in the Vermont Mutual Fire Insurance Company building.

 

Portions of this article were taken from: Where the Books Are: A History of Vermont Libraries by Patricia W. Belding; A New Chapter, the Library's Capital Campaign booklet, by Ed Day; and Dying Well in Montpelier by Cynthia Mills. Republished here with permission.